The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the busiest on record, with 31 depressions, 30 storms and 13 hurricanes. Fires in the West were devastating, with California suffering its worst year on record. The Midwest has also been inundated with ice storms throughout the year. The overlapping timing and geographic spread of these events, combined with unexpected operational disruptions caused by COVID-19, made 2020 a particularly challenging year to ensure power resiliency in the U.S. With 2,100 managed microgrid systems across the country, PowerSecure provided clean, reliable, and resilient power to commercial and industrial customers during 2020’s unanticipated grid outages.
Powerful Economic Development Resource For Communities
PowerSecure partners with community-owned utilities to provide their commercial and industrial accounts with an emergency power guarantee. Microgrids serve as a vital economic development tool as communities seek to attract and retain key accounts. PowerSecure’s outstanding reliability and resiliency in 2020 highlights the value microgrids can bring to utility customers.
Quantifying Resiliency And Reliability
A trusted partner of Hometown Connections, PowerSecure is a leading provider of innovative energy solutions to electric utilities and their industrial, institutional, and commercial customers. The company is a pioneer in developing distributed power systems and the integration of distributed energy resources in a sophisticated microgrid. PowerSecure has installed and controls over 2 gigawatts (GW) of distributed generation systems across the U.S.
Achieving a 99.5% uptime rate across hundreds of microgrid solutions operating is made possible only through careful system planning, technology selection, and procedural adherence. All PowerSecure solutions possess the following key attributes, each designed to maximize the systems’ reliability and resiliency.
From Everyday Operations To Emergency Mode
Since 2007, PowerSecure’s PowerControl Service has successfully monitored more than 31,000 outage events, totaling over 145,000 hours of emergency power operations. PowerControl analysts provide system reliability during everyday microgrid operations and are also trained to operate in emergency mode to ensure enhanced system reliability.
Resiliency Made A Big Difference At The Customer Level
The most intuitive way to appreciate the value of a microgrid’s resiliency application is at the individual customer level.
Hurricane Laura made landfall on August 27, 2020, at 1 a.m. CDT near Cameron, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. The damage from Hurricane Laura was extensive: the storm destroyed more than 14,000 distribution poles, 4,800 transformers and more than 300 substations, resulting in days- and weeks-long outages for hundreds of thousands of utility customers.
This example covers two retail customers near Lake Charles, which both lost grid power for extended periods of time. Both stores’ microgrid system came online immediately as the outage happened and carried the facility’s full load until grid power was restored, 12 and 21 days later.
System performance at two retail outlets in Louisiana that experienced outages due to Hurricane Laura:
|Retailer A Microgrid
|Retailer B Microgrid
|21 days 15 hours
|11 days 23 hours
The microgrids in both retail locations are running (as indicated in green) while in the eye of Hurricane Laura:
In terms of the economic benefit stemming from microgrid power, neither store experienced the loss of produce that a utility power outage would have caused. After the initial storm cleanup was done, customers were able to shop for essential items like ice, water, food, baby formula, supplies and medicines, providing a much- needed lifeline to the community. The stores also proved to be of critical value for first responders, utility linemen and other essential service personnel working in the area with no other source to obtain essential supplies.
“if you’ve ever been through a hurricane and been at a location where people just want the basic essentials, folks are just looking to a store that they can go to get those essentials. It’s nice to be able to be there, serving those communities, opening our doors. The human impact is real.”
– Ozzie Osborne, Director of Facilities Operations, Rouses Market
“PowerSecure was an exceptional partner for us. To know that they were here, embedded with us, before the storm, during the storm, after the storm, to make sure that we had reliable power, you can’t put a price tag on that.”
— Steven D. Sonenreich, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mount Sinai Medical Center
“As a regional Red Cross emergency evacuation center, our facility is required to have emergency power generation to serve the surrounding community. Ever since we got PowerSecure a few years ago they have delivered flawlessly. We could not be happier.”
– Larry Bruce Parson, Lenoir Community College
PowerSecure’s Aggregate Performance Achieved Significant Scale
In total in 2020, 566 PowerSecure systems across 283 unique customer sites in 19 states successfully provided power in island mode (independently from the grid) while customers were impacted by grid outages. During this time, PowerSecure systems supported a maximum of 152 MW of customer load for the equivalent total of 16 months of continuous uptime.
This translated into a successful system uptime rate of 99.5%, across all customers impacted by outages and for the full duration of those outages.
In terms of sector-based performance, PowerSecure achieved a 100% uptime rate for the full duration of outages among its Manufacturing, Healthcare, Educational and Government/Utility facilities. These outages lasted an average of three to nine hours. PowerSecure achieved a 99.9% uptime rate for Large Retailers, and a 99.0% uptime rate for Grocery stores. On average, outages at these retail locations lasted longer, at 72 hours and 28 hours, respectively.
Summary of PowerSecure’s resiliency performance across all natural event-related outages in 2020:
|Average System Size (kW)
|Average Runtime (Hours)
Outages tend to vary quite significantly in duration, and as such, there was a big range in the required uptime from PowerSecure’s microgrid systems in 2020. As Figure 5 shows, 23% of PowerSecure customers were kept powered exclusively through their microgrids for more than 24 hours. 3% of these outages lasted five or more days. PowerSecure microgrids kept customers powered for as long as they needed it, ranging from several hours to several weeks.
The Potential Economic Benefit of Resiliency Is Significant
While location- and outage-specific circumstances greatly affect the economic impact of an outage, the numbers are undeniably significant. Taking just one of the market segments that are highlighted in this article, the magnitude becomes clear: one of PowerSecure’s retail customers estimates that power outages in the past have cost his location between $1,000 and $290,000, depending on length and severity of the outage. Using the distribution of outages in Figure 5 and applying the anecdotal cost range to that distribution, the average power outage costs a grocery store an estimated $8,500 in lost produce, damages, and earnings. Individual event grid power outages with longer durations can have losses that can be hundreds of thousands of dollars per event, resulting in a significant financial impact to a retailer. Extrapolating the average losses across the 40,000 grocery stores in the U.S., the total avoided outage-related costs would be $340 million for each outage event that a resiliency solution can prevent from happening.
If the same logic were applied to all major industry sectors that benefit from resiliency solutions — data centers, hospitals, government, large commercial and industrial customers and more — the macro-level economic benefit that would result from a microgrid solution with 99.5% uptime reliability is staggering.
Extreme Weather Events Will Continue
Recent natural event patterns suggest that extreme weather events are only increasing in intensity and frequency. Eight of the ten costliest hurricane seasons have been in the past 20 years — with four of these in just the past five years — and wildfires are burning more often and more destructively.
In a year of extreme weather that seems to fit this pattern all too well, PowerSecure solutions delivered topnotch resiliency performance and tangible customer benefits in 2020: 566 PowerSecure systems in 19 states provided resiliency during this year’s storms and fires, with an impressive 99.5% uptime rate. Not only did these systems achieve valuable outage cost savings, they also avoided business disruption when their customers and communities needed them the most.
Amid the most recent events with Winter Storm Uri in Texas and across the Southwest, PowerSecure was also at the ready to help its customers deliver clean, reliable and resilient power and avoid power disruptions. Stay tuned to hear more about how our highly reliable microgrid solutions serviced our customers before, during and after the storm. We’ll cover additional success stories in part II of this series on PowerSecure’s storm performance.
PowerSecure is the nation’s leading distributed energy innovation company. Our team of experts has developed, installed, managed and serviced 2+ GW of microgrid capacity over the past 20 years, as well as implemented over $800 million of energy efficiency upgrades. We take a full-facility, lifecycle approach through production and management, delivering clean and resilient energy to our customers at the best possible value. By combining our product innovation capabilities with our 360 integrated processes, we offer you the best custom solution for your needs, backed by an unmatched level of expertise, quality and service. Additional information on PowerSecure microgrid solutions can be found on the company’s website www.powersecure.com.
To learn more about microgrid solutions from PowerSecure, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .